Interview: Amy Kazor, CPVA of Amy Kazor VA

Amy Kazor

I met Amy online a few years ago. She was very helpful to me at one point when we were traveling and I didn’t have a printer and needed some work done, printed, and mailed to a client. Amy did it for me. 

Why did you start Amy Kazor VA and when did you start it?

I opened my practice because I wanted to achieve three major goals in my work life:

  • I wanted more control over the type of work I was doing, with whom I worked, and have that work make a greater impact in the lives I touched.
  • I wanted to help more people than I was able to in my corporate job (and in my mind, any corporate job).
  • I wanted the freedom to work from anywhere and not be tied to a single office location and someone else’s business hours.

I started my practice part time in January 2008. I didn’t know I was doing the work of a ‘virtual assistant’.  I just knew people who needed help and I started helping them on the side. In 2010, I was ready to quit my J-O-B and take what I did to full-time, and wanted to be prepared for that, so I researched programs to help me properly set things up and leverage what I was doing to more than 2-3 people.  I found the Virtual Training Program (now known as the Virtual Mentoring Program (VMP)) at AssistU, applied, and was accepted. I quit my job to focus on my two clients and the training program. I graduated from the program in May 2011.  Then, upon graduation, I began working on filling my practice and working full-time as a VA. I have been full-time in my practice since June 2011 and just recently rebranded from Accomplish VA to Amy Kazor VA.

What is the purpose of your business?

I work with a small, select group of clients from a variety of business types. Each of my clients focus on helping others achieve their life’s purpose.  I partner alongside them in long-term, collaborative relationships. My primary objective is to help them leverage the content they work so hard to create. This might be repurposing a body of work into a new product or service, or even into other avenues for them to engage with their market.  I try to tackle the things they never seem to have time to do, but ultimately need to tackle to reach their goals.

Helping others is truly at my core. As my practice has grown, I have also discovered that my love for what I do and my previous training experience translates well into mentoring and helping aspiring VAs. I do this within the AssistU community and have been blessed to be the lead/senior VA for two internships there.  I was also chosen for the AssistU mentoring team, where I will be working as a mentor to new VAs while they work complete the Virtual Mentoring Program (VMP) and launch or improve their own practices.  This work is more rewarding than I would have imagined and is a wonderful way to give back to the community that has really given so much to me in so many ways.

Amy Kazor VA logoWhat challenges did you face starting Amy Kazor VA and how did you overcome them?

I knew how to support 2-3 executives and multiple departments, create processes and procedures and leverage work product into new materials for marketing and internal training purposes within one organization.

My challenge was to take this knowledge and leverage it myself to multiple clients and across many coinciding deadlines all while running my own business.  This was where the training program at AssistU became important to me. I knew that I needed to have a well-researched, thought-out, and documented plan for how I was going to manage my own service business before I could really focus completely on helping clients within their own.

I knew it was going to be hard to talk about myself and market myself without a firm foundation.  I also knew that working from home was going to be a lonely thing for me if I didn’t have a positive, up-beat, and helpful community to align with.  I was able to achieve all of this through the programs and courses I chose at AssistU and then within that community.

That investment has carried me into my sixth year in business and allowed me to grow in ways I never expected when I entered the program.

Why did you choose to complete the work for the Certified Professional Virtual Assistant (CPVA) designation at AssistU?

Initially, I wrote it into my 5-7 year plan as I completed the coursework to graduate at AssistU.  I am a planner at heart and in the beginning it was something I might want to do and it went into the plan as an option.

A certification is certainly not required to be a Virtual Assistant, but I have a love of learning and growing, and like challenges. I knew that completing the work for the CPVA would offer all of those experiences and make me better at what I did each day.  I believe that any chance we have to learn and grow is a valuable part of becoming who we are meant to be.  This was a logical step in that process.

It did not disappoint. I completed the work for the certification while managing 7 client relationships and their work. I learned a new level of organization and work/life balance. I also learned more about the types of clients I want to have and the work I love doing.  While it was challenging at times, it was absolutely the best next step I could have taken for my practice, my clients, and my life.

What advice can you offer someone looking into the world of Virtual Assistance?

Honestly, my first piece of advice is to take the AssistU training. There are two options.  If you are great at self-study, the Virtual Basics Program will work. If you want more one on one and interaction, a guide through the course, I recommend the AssistU Virtual Mentoring Program. You will have an established VA come along side you to mentor you through the coursework and guide you as you establish your foundation.  The AssistU courses provide the framework and help you answer the tough questions so you have the best possible chance for making it past the first, the fifth, and even the tenth year in business.

While training is not required to do the work, an education on establishing and operating a virtual service business provides the solid foundation you need and helps you develop the support structure that is vital as you do work for others.

When I did the research, I found for myself that there was no other choice than AssistU to gain the footing I wanted to see this business through the long-term.  In the program I was able to determine my core needs and develop a strong business plan, boundaries, and standards.  Graduation allowed me to be involved in a community where I am able to glean from and provide support to others who are similarly aligned in business.  For me, going it alone was not an option, and I don’t recommend any VA try to do that.

Really taking the time and effort to think through what it is you are going to do, and how you are going to do it to be profitable, is sure footing. If you aren’t profitable you will expend a lot of energy and time trying to make your business work only to end up back in a corporate job. If the corporate world isn’t the life you want, pave your way to success with more than good intentions, get the skills necessary to be a successful business owner and understand what it means to support the same.

My second piece of advice is to invest the time and money into a real business coach who works with VAs.  No offence to the peer coaches and mentors out there (I am a mentor myself) but the business coaching I have received has helped shape me as a VA beyond what I would be now without it. After AssistU, it has been my most invaluable investment.

Your coaching relationship will help keep you on task with the most important decisions you will make within your business and with clients.  When times are tough, a great coach will not only help keep you on target, he or she will ask the hard questions and get you to answer them.  When you aren’t getting clients or when you are unhappy with a part of your business, it’s those hard questions and that feet-to-the-fire coaching that will get you through.

Advice from VAs who are not profitable or happy in their practice will not help you.  My coach is part of an amazing foundational support team in my practice. That team consists of coach, accountant, attorney, IT professional, and insurance agent.  I can then rely on the AssistU community for answer, suggestions, and filling service gaps as well.  It makes me a much better VA.

Do yourself a favor in a world where most businesses fail.  Build your foundation.  Know what you are doing within your own business so that as you support others in theirs you are able to focus on them and not worry about yourself.  By taking the time up front to prepare and get supported, and then work your plan and engage with your community, your business will thank you by sticking around for years to come.

Going the Extra Mile for Your Client

going the extra mile for your clientHaving trouble with client retention? Go the extra mile!

Too often I find virtual assistants with the mindset of doing tasks assigned for an hourly rate. A Chief Virtual Officer has the mindset of a business owner and understands the importance of client retention. It means going the extra mile for clients – exceeding their expectations.

When you and your client first start, you both sign a contract stating expectations on both sides. That’s very important. But periodically, do something unexpected for your client – exceed their expectations. You’ll find you have happier clients, more client referrals, and a higher client retention rate.

Here are a few ideas for going the extra mile:

  • Create quotes from their blog, newsletter, or other marketing materials and add to images to post on Pinterest and Facebook.
  • Do you see something they could improve? Don’t be afraid to speak up. Share your thoughts with your client.
  • Periodically email or call your client to schedule a 15-minute phone conversation to brainstorm other ideas you could help them with.
  • Create a new Pinterest board and add content. Perhaps a “Tips” board based on some of their favorite tips they provide to their clients.
  • Look for a blog post relevant to their industry and send them a link encouraging them to comment on it.

What ideas do you have for going the extra mile? Please share them with everyone here!

Business Social Sites: Ghost Towns or Thriving Marketplaces – Guest Post by Susan Mayfield

ghost town

Today my good friend and fellow virtual assistant, Susan Mayfield, has shared a guest post with us.

Have you ever visited a business social site to find out it had not been updated in a couple of years? Ghost town business sites are those dry, dusty and deserted social pages that businesses start and then abandon. An active business site is like a thriving marketplace, one where people are interacting and business is happening.

A businesses social site is their online, electronic billboard and should be treated as the valuable business tool and asset that it can be. Like any other business tool, it is only good if you make use of it. Which category do your business social sites currently fall into: thriving city marketplace or ghost town, or somewhere in between?

5 Reasons for Active Social Sites:

  1. Potential clients and customers can find your business contact information
  2. Clients and customers can easily share your business with their friends and others
  3. Clients and customers can give reviews and tell others about a positive experience
  4. Communication of upcoming sales/events/specials offers and much more
  5. Worldwide Visibility and keeping your business in front of customers and potential customers

5 Reasons Leaving Social Sites Unmonitored can be Detrimental to your Business:

  1. People visiting them will wonder if you are still in business
  2. Outdated contact and business information on the site can mean lost business
  3. People can post negative, untrue or inappropriate things on the social sites
  4. Quick responses to questions is expected
  5. Your social sites can be hijacked and used to damage your business reputation

The younger generations, even the majority of those in their 50’s, are using social sites to find businesses and to check out what others are saying about that business before making any contact to purchase or use their services.

Is your business suffering from inactive or sporadic social site interaction and are your social sites more like ghost towns than thriving active city marketplaces? Keeping regular content on your social sites is one of the challenges of doing business today. One of the main reasons businesses stop using their sites is the time involved to keep a steady stream of information across multiple sites.

Times SquareThat is why many businesses use social media managers and virtual assistants to keep up with the fast pace of the ever changing landscape of social media and technology. They spend time weekly keeping up with the changes. Consult with a virtual assistant and social media manger to see how they can take that ghost town and turn it into a business asset today.

Copyright© 2014 Reduce the Chaos Sacramento, California. All Rights Reserved.

Taxes and Your Virtual Assistant Business

tax time againHave you started preparing your taxes yet? Maybe you dread every year getting all your books in order. It seems tax time comes around so quickly. Here are some things you should know about taxes and your virtual assistant business:

  • You are a business owner and need to report your taxable income, both on Federal and State tax returns.
  • Most likely you will file as a Sole Proprietor using your Social Security number.
  • You will need to file a Schedule C to report income or loss.
  • Schedule SE needs to be filed to show self-employment tax due.

Keep track of all business expenses to reduce your taxable income. Business expenses may include:

  • A portion of your telephone bills; this may include a cell phone, land line, fax machine, any payments for Skype and internet access charges.
  • You work from a home office. You may be able to deduct for the portion of your home used for an office.
  • Did you buy new equipment this year? Office equipment such as a desk, chair, computer, and headphones can be deducted.
  • Other office expenses that can be deducted are supplies such as copy paper, ink cartridges, pens, postage. Don’t forget about software you use to run your virtual home office.
  • Do you subscribe to tools you use in your home office? QuickBooks, HootSuite, Office365.
  • Your costs for domain name, website hosting, website updates.

Can you think of other things you can deduct as business expenses? Please share your tax tips here!

 

Tips for Using Google+

Google logoOne of the main social media networks is Google+. Google+ has 300 million monthly active users. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of using Google+ for your social media marketing and your virtual assistant business.

  • Use hashtags. They can be used the same way you use them in Twitter and will help your posts get found and notice. Google+ is now automatically adding a hashtag to many posts but you want to choose appropriate ones for your posts as well.
  • Format text in your posts. I just learned you can add an asterisk (*) before and after a word or phrase to make it bold. You can use an underscore (_) before and after a word or phrase to make it italic. And you can use a dash (-)  before and after a word or phrase to strike through text. In other words, *this* become this, and _this_ becomes this and -this- becomes this!
  • Create a great cover image. There is a lot of real estate available in the cover image area to promote you and your business. Don’t just use the default image. Create something visually appealing that tells visitors what you can do for them.
  • Use photos. Be sure to use photos in your posts. You can also add video and create  events. Photos catch people’s eyes and increase the chances of your post being noticed.
  • Add more connections. You want to grow your circle of influence by adding more connections. Go to People and search for people you may know. If you are a Gmail user, click on Gmail contacts. Suggestions will come up based on your Gmail contacts. Just click add and add these connections to the appropriate list.
  • Check out What’s hot. Click on What’s hot and you’ll be taken to a page showing you what the current popular posts and topics are. There will also be suggestions on Communities you may want to join and other people you may want to follow.

Do you have any tips to share on using Google+? Please share them here! You can also connect with me on Google+ here.